It’s common knowledge by now: workers are stressed about finances and it’s affecting their work performance. But two surveys conducted by the Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI) dug deeper, focusing specifically on retirement-related financial stress and uncovering common characteristics shared by workers who worry about retiring comfortably.
The results, published in a report titled Perceived Helpfulness of Financial Well-being Programs: Results from the 2017 and 2018 Retirement Confidence Surveys, shed light on which topics workplace wellness programs should address to make the most impact.
Stress by the numbers
According to EBRI, “workers across the board reported feeling stressed about preparing for retirement.” However, significantly more employees who are earning lower incomes, dealing with health issues or lacking retirement-related financial savvy are affected by this type of stress.
More specifically, the report indicated:
- Almost two-thirds of respondents (64 percent) who make less than $75,000 are stressed about saving for retirement, compared to 52 percent of workers who earn more than that amount.
- Three-quarters of employees who report being in fair or poor health are worried about having enough money to retire, versus 51 percent of those who are in excellent or very good health.
- Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of workers who have not calculated how much money they’ll need in retirement feel stressed about it. By comparison, 48 percent who do know how much they need to save are stressed.
- Education appears to play a role, as 61 percent of respondents without a bachelor’s degree worry about retirement, compared to 54 percent of those who earned a degree.
- Younger employees (those under 50) are more prone to worry than older employees, 61 percent versus 54 percent, respectively.
- More female workers (64 percent) are stressed than their male counterparts (53 percent).
Impact on job performance
Overall, 30 percent of workers who stress about preparing for retirement are experiencing this stress while on-the-job. Many admit it’s impacting their performance and affecting their mental health.
Several factors correlated strongly with worrying in the workplace:
- 71 percent of employees with major debt say they are stressed about finances while at work, versus just 9 percent without debt.
- 55 percent of workers who aren’t confident about living comfortably in retirement stress about money on-the-job, compared to a mere 7 percent who are very confident about their retirement outlook.
“These worrying workers were then asked if they would be more productive if they were not worrying about finances. Over 50 percent reported that they would be more productive—18 percent much more productive and 35 percent somewhat more productive,” EBRI noted its report.
Impressions of workplace wellness programs
The good news is employees largely believe financial wellness programs and retirement planning advice can go a long way in reducing stress and improving performance at work.
Respondents especially would like programs to address the following topics:
- How to calculate how much to save for a secure retirement (75 percent)
- How to estimate monthly expenses in retirement (72 percent)
- How to plan for health care expenses in retirement (72 percent)
- How to create a comprehensive financial plan (68 percent)
Contrary to popular belief, far fewer workers think debt counseling, budgeting advice or student loan debt assistance programs would be helpful in reducing their retirement-related financial stress.
“If workers’ worrying less about their finances leads to higher productivity and increased mental health, employers could benefit through greater worker productivity and healthier workers,” EBRI researchers concluded. “This could offset the costs of providing financial well-being programs. Furthermore, because workers value these programs, their provision could also be a means of attracting and retaining workers in a tight labor environment.”